A crisp, cloudy day in London gradually eased as we headed up the M1 towards Milton Keynes and glimpses of blue sky started appearing. A sea of Cross Country runners, supporters and others clearly dragged along, greeted us as we walked across from the MK Bowl parking lot to Teardrop Lakes.
A manmade park, it's almost as though the landscape gardeners who designed the parks of Milton Keynes back in the 1960's, knew that hundreds of runners would need some muddy hills to test themselves on in the future. And if hoping to leave a devilish legacy, they did extremely well...
The course starts with a gentle flat, snaking back and forth before hitting the kind of hill that children on 'snow-days' flock to and don't leave all day. It's short, sharp and if you don't choose your path correctly you can easily lose a shoe in the mud, or slip backward and end up doing it all again.
Once at the top, it's a quick gasp for breath before a descent to match the climb - some try to slow, some let it all go - but everyone flies down and around a corner leading back towards the start line. A welcome flat straight heads back past the main field and a lot of support and cheering before easing around one of the lakes and out the other side.
The 'small' lap turns just after this, and comes back around to the start. The 'big' lap carries on out and weaves through fields, trees and narrow paths before meeting the other manmade wonder, fondly known as The Beast. This beautiful atrocity must've really set the creators off in hysterics, it's possibly a touch less steep than the first, but double the length. And for fun, an official race photographer is perched atop, capturing the kind of shots that could get you a divorce if posted on social media.
As before, the almost immediate downhill is steep and manic (running like Phoebe from Friends is a necessity), before winding back towards the start line via a picturesque woodland path that almost makes it all worth it.
The finish holds more cross country wonders - mud, a sharp turn, everyone you know watching, and more mud - before filing down the finish tunnel and congratulating anyone who makes eye contact and trying not the pass out from the sprint finish.
The distances vary across the age and gender groups:
- Senior Men's - 9.6km (1 small lap, 2 big lap)
- Senior Ladies & U17 Men - 5.9km (1 small, 1 big lap)
- U15 Boys - 4.4km (2 small laps)
All in all, it's a fun event and great to be able to line up with pro athletes (Andy Vernon came 3rd in the Men's!) and run the same course, while also competing with runners of similar abilities - a pretty unique experience and luckily the mud appears to wash off.. eventually.
Many thanks to everyone who helped and cheered on the day - Bill for all the organisation, pins and bringing the flag, and Sophie for bringing the gazebo! Plus a huge shout out to all that ran, first timers for braving it and old timers for coming back!
Photos of the day can be found HERE
Nathan Barnard sprinting to the finish line
Noah Barnard - 19:01 - 21st in the Chiltern League and 90th overall
31 finishers in the Chiltern League (2nd Division)/106 finishers overall
Nathan Barnard - 20:34 - 4th in the Chiltern League and 55th overall
25 finishers in the Chiltern League (2nd Division)/141 finishers overall
Sophie Barnard - 26:18 - 16th in the Chiltern League and 103rd overall
Anastasia Chew - 30:12 - 46th in the Chiltern League and 186th overall
Emma Jones - 33:00 - 71st in the Chiltern League and 246th overall
95 finishers in the Chiltern League (2nd Division)/306 finishers overall
Matt Kitching - 36:37 - 13th in the Chiltern League and 138th overall
Sam Sutherland - 38:48 - 25th in the Chiltern League and 214th overall
Matt Wooden - 41:13 - 45th in the Chiltern League and 286th overall
Alex Johnston - 42:09 - 54th in the Chiltern League and 313th overall
Gildas Braine - 42:36 - 59th in the Chiltern League and 321st overall
Richard Byrne - 43:53 - 70th in the Chiltern League and 358th overall
Matt Peffers - 47:35 - 105th in the Chiltern League and 428th overall
Adrian Boylan - 47:58 - 109th in the Chiltern League and 434th overall
Andrew Britton - 48:44 - 114th in the Chiltern League and 443rd overall
Trevor Mathurin - 56:58 - 147th in the Chiltern League and 496th overall
Bill O'Connor - 63:57 - 49th in the Chiltern League and 503rd overall
151 finishers in the Chiltern League (2nd Division)/507 finishers overall
For full results click HERE
The next Chiltern league cross country fixture is on December 2rd in Luton (Stopsley Common).